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Teaching Students with Learning Disabilities to Mindfully Plan When Writing.

Planning is an important part of good writing. Flower and Hayes (1980) found that skilled writers typically develop an initial set of goals to guide the writing process, generating and organizing writing content to meet these goals. The importance of planning is especially apparent in the composing behavior of professional writers. When planning the script for Star Trek III: The Search for Spock, for example, Harve Bennett decided to pick up the action where the prior movie, The Wrath of Khan, had left off and established two goals he wanted to resolve while writing: (a) finding out what Spock's dying remark, "remember," meant and (b) exploring what would happen if the Klingons learned that the genesis technology could destroy as well as create life (Shatner & Kreski, 1994). He used these goals to generate and organize ideas into an outline that was then used to write the script.

In contrast, children with learning disabilities (LD) employ a different approach to writing, one that minimizes the role of planning (Graham & Harris, 1997; Thomas, Englert, & Gregg, 1987). They tend to convert writing tasks into tasks of telling what one knows (McCutchen, 1988). Information that is somewhat topic relevant is retrieved from memory and written down, with each preceding idea stimulating the generation of the next one. Little attention is directed to establishing rhetorical goals, organizing text, or meeting the needs of the reader. This retrieve-and-write process functions like an automated program, operating largely without metacognitive control.

An important goal in writing instruction for students with LD, therefore, is to help them become more planful and resourceful when composing. One way to achieve this goal is to teach them to use the same types of planning processes employed by more skillful writers (Graham & Harris, 1996). This approach was taken in the current study. Students with LD received instruction designed to help them incorporate three common planning strategies into their current approach to writing. Students learned to set goals, brainstorm ideas, and sequence their ideas while writing stories and completing self-selected homework assignments. The effects of teaching these planning strategies was assessed by examining changes in students' story writing performance and writing behavior. We further assessed generalization to a second writing genre, persuasive essay writing.

Instruction in the three planning strategies followed the Self-Regulated Strategy Development (SRSD) model (Harris & Graham, 1996). With SRSD, students learn to use task-specific strategies as well as procedures for regulating the use of these strategies, the task, and personal characteristics that may impede performance. In the present study, self-regulation of strategies, task, and behaviors was facilitated by asking students to monitor and evaluate each of these components and set goals to learn and use the planning strategies. To date, the SRSD model has been used successfully in over 15 studies to develop writing strategies for students with LD (see Harris & Graham). This includes the development of planning and revising strategies (e.g., Graham & Harris, 1989) as well as the use of goal setting and self-monitoring (e.g., Graham, MacArthur, & Schwartz, 1995; Harris, Graham, Reid, McElroy, & Hamby, 1994).

A critical issue in strategy instruction involves maintenance and generalization (Alexander, Graham, & Harris, 1998). As theorists have noted, knowing how to apply specific strategies does not guarantee that they will be used when opportunities arise (Salomon & Globerson, 1987). This is especially true for students with LD, as they are less likely than their regularly achieving peers to apply available strategies to new situations (Ellis, 1986), and strategy transfer has not been a consistent outcome in published intervention research with these students (Wong, 1994).

Mindfulness is one construct that provides a useful means for explaining why children do not always apply available strategies (Salomon & Globerson, 1987; Wong, 1994). Mindfulness is a description of how tasks are completed. When a more mindless approach is taken, little thought or effort is dedicated to generating possible solutions, and the salient structural features of the situation trigger the application of existing schemata and strategies. Such an approach can limit transfer in two ways. One, available strategies are not likely to transfer very far, as they are only evoked in situations that resemble the contexts in which they were previously learned and applied (Salomon & Perkins, 1989). Two, available strategies may be erroneously or inappropriately applied, diminishing their perceived value and subsequent application, as stimulus and situational similarities between a task and the triggered solution do not ensure a good match.

When a more mindful approach is undertaken, responding is withheld as the task is analyzed and possible solutions are generated and evaluated, including drawing new connections between the elements of the current situation and previously abstracted knowledge, skills, and strategies (Salomon & Perkins, 1989). Mindfulness is deliberate, effortful, and analytic, providing at least three advantages to transfer over a more mindless approach (Salomon & Globerson, 1987). One, available strategies are likely to transfer farther when mindful processes are applied, as transfer is not stimulus and situation controlled, but involves a more careful analysis of the task and available resources, making a broader range of strategies candidates for transfer. Two, available strategies are more likely to be valued (assuming they are effective) and subsequently used, as mindfulness involves monitoring and analytic reflection, providing opportunities for learners to establish connections between strategy use and performance. Three, mindfulness provides more opportunities to apply available strategies, as existing routines like the retrieve-and-write approach described earlier are not automatically activated.

The advantages of more mindful behavior led Wong (1994) to recommend that mindful-inducing procedures be employed when children learn to use strategies. She noted that the extent and depth of thinking that occurs during instruction is predictive of subsequent strategy transfer. She further indicated that it is especially important to apply mindful-inducing procedures with students with LD, as they tend to be more passive and less mindful during learning than their regularly-achieving peers. Suggested procedures for inducing mindful behavior during strategy instruction included having students (a) abstract and identify the principles underlying the target strategy for themselves, (b) reflect on the relationship between strategy use and performance, and (c) determine what aspects of the strategy are applicable or need to be modified for current problems and new tasks.

The SRSD model used in the present study includes a number of procedures designed to induce mindfulness (Graham, Harris, & Troia, 1998). These include the following:

* Asking students to compare the modeled strategy to their own approach for solving tasks.

* Identify the rationale for using the strategy.

* Determine what they can do to facilitate strategy learning.

* Monitor and evaluate their use of the strategy (see b above).

* Think about how the strategy can be applied and modified now and in the future (see c above).

* Consider what else can be done to improve performance.

In light of the importance of mindfulness in strategy learning and transfer, two modifications were made in the SRSD model. One, in the first three lessons, the instructor modeled how to do diverse tasks while using the planning strategies. A series of questions was used to guide students' thinking as they worked to abstract the essential features, rationale, and value of the processes used by the instructor. These activities were designed to help students decontextualize the use of the strategies and represent this decontextualized information in a new, more general form. Such abstractions yield a re-representation that is more transferable, as they apply to a broader range of cases (Salomon & Globerson, 1987; Salomon & Perkins, 1989). Two, students completed self-identified homework assignments, applying and modifying the planning strategies as needed. This provided students the opportunity to evaluate the relevance, flexibility, and consequence of using the strategies in new situations.

Thus, in the current study, we examined if this modified version of SRSD provided an effective approach for facilitating the acquisition, maintenance, and generalization of planning strategies important for writing. A multiple-baseline across subjects design, with multiple probes in baseline, was used to assess the effectiveness of this approach with three fifth-grade students with LD.



Participants were three fifth-grade students from two suburban elementary schools in the Mid-Atlantic states. Each student had been identified as LD by the school district and improvement of writing was an educational goal for all three students. Because of the heterogeneity of school-identified students with LD, participants had to meet two additional criteria: an IQ score between 85 and 115 on the Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children-III (WISC-III) and achievement at least one standard deviation below the mean in reading and writing on the Woodcock Reading Mastery Tests-Revised (WRMT-R) and the Test of Written Language-2 (TOWL-2), respectively. English was the primary language for all participants, and each student was from a disadvantaged socioeconomic background. All three students had a Full scale IQ score of 101 on the WISC-III.

Luke, an African American, was 10 years, 5 months old at the start of the study. He had received speech and language services in second and third grade, and 5 hr of weekly resource room services for LD starting in fourth grade. His standard reading score on the WRMT-R and writing score on the TOWL-2 were 76 and 72, respectively. Both tests have a mean of 100 and a standard deviation of 15. Ben, a Caucasian, was 11 years, 9 months old at the start of the study. He had been retained in first grade, and had received 10 hr of weekly resource room services for LD since second grade. His standard reading score on the WRMT-R and writing score on the TOWL-2 were 63 and 73, respectively. Leia, a Caucasian, was 11 years, 7 months old at the start of the study. She also had been retained in first grade. She had received speech and language therapy in second through fourth grade, and began receiving 4 hr of weekly resource room services for LD starting in third grade. Her standard reading score on the WRMT-R and writing score on the TOWL-2 were 69 and 64, respectively.


The experimental design for the study is presented in Table 1. Throughout the study, each child worked individually with the first author, who maintained a log, recording students' comments and writing behaviors. To guide the teaching process, lesson plans were developed for each phase of instruction. Following baseline, each student completed seven instructional lessons conducted over a period of 3 weeks. Each lesson lasted 60 to 90 min. The methods for teaching the strategies (i.e., goal setting, brainstorming, and organizing) were based on the SRSD model (Harris & Graham, 1996) and are described in the following sections. As noted earlier, several features of the model were modified to enhance students' mindfulness during instruction.
Experimental Design

Phases of the Study Description

Preinstruction Instruction in identifying and
 generating the components underlying
 good stories and persuasive essays was
 provided to ensure that participants
 were familiar with the elements and
 structure of both genres before the
 start of baseline and instruction.

Baseline probes During baseline, participants' story
 writing performance prior to strategy
 instruction was established. At the
 beginning of each story writing probe,
 the student selected one of two
 pictures about which to write.
 Students were told that their stories
 would be typed and bound so that they
 could share them with their family and
 friends. No feedback was provided
 about the content or quality of
 papers. The correct spelling of words,
 however, was provided upon request.

Strategy instruction Instruction began for the first
 participant after a stable baseline on
 a story grammar measure was obtained.
 Instruction continued until the
 student demonstrated independent
 mastery of the strategies and was able
 to successfully complete two
 consecutive homework assignments.
 Instruction did not start for the next
 student until the first student's
 story grammar scores increased by 25%.
 Identical procedures were followed
 when introducing and terminating
 treatment with the third student. The
 order of instruction was determined
 via random assignment.

Postinstructional probes After a student completed instruction,
 three postinstructional story writing
 probes were collected following the
 procedures established during

Maintenance probes Three weeks after completing the last
 postinstructional probe, each student
 completed a final story writing probe
 following the procedures established
 during baseline.

Task generalization probes Persuasive essay writing probes were
 administered during baseline,
 postinstruction, and at maintenance.
 Procedures for collecting these probes
 were identical to baseline conditions
 for the story writing probes.

Preinstruction. Prior to the collection of baseline probes, each student received instruction designed to ensure that they were knowledgeable about the attributes and elements of a good story and persuasive essay. The acronym SPACE (Setting, Problem, Actions, Consequence, Emotions), printed on a small chart, was used to introduce five primary elements in a well-developed story. Each element was discussed, and the instructor identified examples of these elements in a story read with the child. The student and instructor then read a different story together and identified each element. This continued until the student could identify all five elements in a story. Finally, the child was asked to tell a story about a picture, using each element and noting when it was produced. All three students were able to complete this task successfully on their first attempt.

An identical format was used for teaching the elements of persuasive essays. The acronym DARE (Develop a topic sentence, Add supporting details, Reject arguments, End with a conclusion), from a study by De La Paz and Graham (1997a), was used to introduce four primary elements in an essay. Students were informed that the appropriate chart would be available for reference when writing (during baseline and after), and that the instructor would remind the student to use the chart.

Strategy Instruction. During the first three lessons, the instructor modeled how to use the three target strategies (goal setting, brainstorming, and organizing) to write stories and complete other academic tasks. The students abstracted and evaluated the essential processes used and an acronym was introduced as a reminder for using these processes with writing and other tasks.

In the first lesson, the instructor used the three strategies to prepare a speech and write a story. He performed each task, while thinking aloud, so that the processes involved were more readily apparent. In preparing the speech, the instructor set a goal ("prepare a speech for my astronomy class on how to build a model rocket"), brainstormed the steps for building a model rocket, and arranged them in the order they occurred. As he prepared the speech, he modified his notes by adding, deleting, changing, and rearranging steps and ideas. Similarly, when writing a story, the instructor set a goal ("to write a good story to share with my creative writing class"), brainstormed ideas to include in the story, and sequenced the ideas he planned to use. While planning and writing the story, he modified his outline--adding, changing, deleting, and rearranging ideas. As both tasks were modeled, the instructor provided a rationale for each thing he did, commented on its effectiveness, and verbally reinforced himself for a job well done. The student assisted the instructor as he generated and organized ideas and later modified his plan.

Next, the student was asked to take some time and think about what the instructor did to complete the two tasks. To help the child identify the essential features, rationale, and value of the strategies applied by the instructor, a series of questions was used to guide the student's thinking. Initially, questions focused on what the instructor did that was similar and different when doing both tasks. Each student identified goal setting, brainstorming, and organizing as similar. The instructor then asked the student to think about why each of the strategies were used and how they might have been helpful. The child was further asked to consider how his or her own writing approach differed from that of the instructor and assess the possible value of using these strategies.

Identical procedures were used in the next two lessons in which the instructor modeled how to use the three strategies to read a chapter and write a story (lesson 2) as well as plan a trip (lesson 3). The only difference was that the student was further asked to identify what the instructor did that was similar and different when modeling the tasks in the current and previous lesson. At the end of the second lesson, a mnemonic that would help the child remember to set goals, brainstorm, and sequence was introduced. A small chart was used to introduce the mnemonic, STOP & LIST (Stop Think Of Purpose & List Ideas Sequence Them). At the end of the third lesson, a list was created of when, where, and why each strategy had previously been used by the student, and the student generated a list of other tasks for which the strategies might be used. At this point, two goals were established: (a) to learn how to use STOP & LIST to write better stories and (b) to complete other tasks at home or school. Procedures for accomplishing these goals were described, and the student generated what he or she would do to facilitate the learning process (e.g., "not give up" and "work hard").

During the third lesson, the student also practiced memorizing the mnemonic and sentence it represented. This continued in succeeding lessons until it could be repeated quickly and easily.

In the next two lessons (4 and 5), the instructor provided assistance to the student in applying STOP & LIST when writing stories. In each lesson, the student and the instructor collaboratively planned a story, making sure the strategies and mnemonic were used appropriately. The chart with the mnemonic was available (if needed) to remind the student to set goals, brainstorm, and sequence. The instructor modified the amount of input and support provided to meet each child's individual needs, with the goal of fading assistance as quickly as possible for each student. Scaffolded assistance included prompting, providing guidance and feedback, and re-explanations. By the end of lesson 5, the instructor reported that each student was ready to apply the strategy independently.

Once a story was finished, the student judged if he met the established goal and considered why he was successful or unsuccessful by assessing the role of the three strategies. The student further identified what else could have been done to write an even better story.

At the end of both lessons, homework was assigned that asked the student to identify an opportunity to apply STOP & LIST at home or school, indicating how it would be helpful and what modifications were needed to make it successful. Examples of homework assignments completed by students included planning a report, planning a trip, and securing supplies for school. At the start of the next lesson, the student provided evidence (their outline or planning sheet) that the homework assignment was successfully completed, and assessed the role and value of the strategies in carrying out the task. Verbal praise and the selection of a tangible reward (e.g., McDonald's food certificate) reinforced each completed homework assignment. The student was also asked to describe any other times goal setting, brainstorming, or sequencing were used since the prior lesson. Examples generated by the students centered on the completion of school writing assignments.

During the last two lessons (6 and 7), the student planned and wrote stories independently. The instructor provided positive and constructive feedback only as needed. Homework continued and students evaluated their stories and reflected on the results and relevance of using the strategies.

When the child no longer needed any assistance or feedback from the instructor while using STOP & LIST to write a story and two homework assignments in a row were completed successfully, practice using the strategies was discontinued. Once practice was discontinued, the student was asked to reconsider how goal setting, brainstorming, and sequencing were helpful when writing stories and completing other tasks, such as homework assignments. They also indicated how STOP & LIST had to be modified for these tasks, and set goals for applying the strategies in the future to self-identified opportunities (e.g., writing assignments, homework, and shopping).

Treatment Validity

We implemented the following safeguards to ensure that procedures were implemented as planned. One, each step of a lesson was checked by the instructor as it was completed. This helped to remind the instructor to complete each segment of a lesson. Two, an audiotape was made of each session. One third of the audiotapes were randomly selected at the end of the study and scored by an examiner unfamiliar with the purpose and design of the study. The examiner listened to tapes and checked off each step on the corresponding lesson plan as it was completed. On each tape scored, 100% of the instructional procedures detailed in the lesson plan were completed.

Data Collection and Scoring Procedures

Pictures were used as the writing stimuli for all story writing probes. Before the study began, 60 pictures were evaluated by two elementary school teachers to determine their suitability as writing prompts. Pictures needed to be interesting and open-ended enough that students would be able to devise their own story line when responding to them. A 5-point Likert type scale was used to evaluate each picture on these two dimensions. On the basis of these ratings, 14 pictures were judged to be unsuitable. The remaining 46 pictures were randomly assigned to pairs, and then each pair of pictures was randomly assigned to a story writing probe. For each story writing probe, students were provided with two prompts from which to choose. This further minimized the possibility that students would be uninterested in or unfamiliar with a story starter. An example of a story starter was a picture of a turtle sitting on a limb with his mouth wide open and his top legs crossed as if they were hands.

Similarly, 20 persuasive essay topic prompts were randomly assigned to pairs and the pairs randomly assigned to the writing generalization probes. The suitability of the essay topics had been established in two previous studies (De La Paz & Graham, 1997a, 1997b). An example essay prompt was: "Should students be required to wear uniforms at school?"

All stories, essays, and written plans developed by students were typed prior to scoring, and spelling, punctuation, and capitalization errors were corrected. This eliminated any potential bias that mechanical factors such as handwriting or spelling might exert during the scoring process. All identifying information also was removed from the papers.

Plans. Two measures were used to assess planning behavior. One, the amount of time spent planning in advance of writing was recorded via a stopwatch. Two, any written plans produced during a writing session were collected and the number of written propositions generated were counted. A proposition was defined as a unique idea that formed a new and complete thought. None of the students generated written plans for their compositions before learning the target strategies. Written plans were scored by two preservice teachers unfamiliar with the design of the study. Interobserver reliability was .99 for story plans and .97 for essay plans. Scores for the two raters were averaged.

Strategy Use. Two procedures were used to determine if students used the writing strategies taught during instruction. One, the instructor kept a record of the strategies used by students when writing. These records were consulted to determine if the target strategies were employed. Two, all permanent products generated by students when writing were examined for evidence of strategy use.

Writing Time. Time spent writing was recorded with a stopwatch.

Length. All stories and essays were scored in terms of number of words written. Length of a paper was determined by the word count function of a word processing software package.

Story Grammar Scale. A modified version of the story grammar scale developed by Graham and Harris (1989) was used to evaluate the schematic structure of stories. The scale was designed to assess the inclusion and quality of 10 elements commonly included in stories:

* Main character.

* Locale.

* Time.

* Initiating event.

* Goal.

* Attempt to achieve goal.

* Consequence of attempt.

* Characters' reactions.

* Dialogue.

* Title.

For each element, a score of 0 was awarded if the element was not present, a score of 1 if the element was present, and a score of 2 if the element was highly developed. The only exceptions involved dialogue (scored as 0 if not present and 1 if present) and goal, which could be awarded an additional point if the main character had more than one clearly articulated goal. Furthermore, an additional point was awarded if the story contained more than one episode (i.e., an initiating event, an attempt to achieve the goal, and a consequence of the attempt). The total possible score on the story grammar scale was 21.

Several separate investigations established evidence that the story grammar scale was valid. Scores on the story grammar scale correlate significantly with other measures of story structure (Graves, Montague, & Wong, 1990), with performance on a standardized writing test (Graham & Harris, 1989), and with measures of fluency and overall writing quality (Graham & Harris, 1989; MacArthur & Graham, 1987). The scale also discriminates between groups of students known to differ in their writing ability (Montague, Graves, & Leavell, 1991; Vallecrosa & Garris, 1990). Finally, the scale is sensitive to the effects of instructional programs designed to improve the schematic structure of stories (Graham & Harris, 1989; Sawyer, Graham, & Harris, 1992).

The first author scored all stories. A second trained examiner who was unfamiliar with the purpose and design of the study scored one third of the stories (randomly selected) to establish reliability of the scoring procedures. Interrater reliability was .91.

Essay Elements. Each essay was segmented into the following minimal parsable units according to procedures devised by Scardamalia, Bereiter, and Goelman (1982): (a) premise, (b) reasons, (c) conclusion, (d) elaborations, and (d) nonfunctional text. Functional essay elements are those that directly support the development of the writer's argument. A premise is a statement specifying the writer's position on a topic. Reasons are explanations to support or refute the position. A conclusion is defined as a summary statement that reiterates the writer's position. Finally, a unit of text that qualifies or clarifies previously stated information is scored as an elaboration. One point was awarded for each functional element present in the essay and the total served as the score for that essay. Nonfunctional text units such as irrelevant statements, nonrhetorical repetitions, and elaborations of nonfunctional text were awarded a score of 0.

The first author scored all essays. A second trained examiner who was unfamiliar with the purpose and design of the study scored one third of the essays (randomly selected) to establish reliability of the scoring procedures. Interrater reliability was .99.

Story Quality. A traditional holistic rating scale was used to assess story quality. Each story was read to obtain a general impression of overall quality. The composition then was scored on an 8-point scale, with 8 representing the highest quality of writing and 1 representing the lowest quality. Aptness of word choice, grammar, sentence structure, organization, and imagination were all taken into account in forming a judgment about overall quality. A representative low-, medium-, and high-scoring composition were used to guide the scoring process. These compositions were obtained from a general education fifth-grade classroom in which all students wrote a story. Two trained graduate students then selected the best, middle, and poorest story on the basis of the scoring criteria noted above.

A trained preservice teacher, who was unfamiliar with the purpose and design of the study, and the second author scored all stories. Interrater reliability between the two raters was .84. The teacher's scores were used in all subsequent analyses.

Essay Quality. Essay quality was scored on an 8-point scale, with 8 representing the highest quality of writing and 1 representing the lowest quality. After reading an essay, the rater used the 8-point scale to make two ratings: one for organization and the other for clarity. Organization referred to how well a coherent plan was sustained throughout the essay, whereas clarity referred to the degree to which one or more lines of argument were clearly articulated to support the premise or address plausible counterarguments. The overall quality rating for each essay was the average of the scores for these two ratings. As with stories, anchor points were used to guide the scoring process.

Two preservice teachers, who were unfamiliar with the purpose and design of the study, scored all essays. The interrater reliability of the two scorers was .96. The scores used in subsequent analyses were derived by consensus between the teachers.

Social Validation. Students were interviewed at the conclusion of the study to obtain information about the perceived effectiveness of the intervention as well as recommendations and other feedback. They also were asked to identify any opportunities they had to use the strategies.


Students' average scores for stories and essays are presented in Table 2. In addition, Figure 1 presents the scores on the story grammar scale for each story written during the course of the study, and Figure 2 presents the total number of functional essay elements included in each essay.

Students' Average Scores During Each Experimental Condition

Writing Measures Baseline instruction Maintenance

 Elements 5.7 9.3 8.0
 Overall Quality 2.0 2.0 3.0
 Length 61.0 101.3 67.0
 Planning Time 0.0 28.0 17.0
 Writing Time 17.3 26.7 15.0
 Propositions 0.0 16.3 16.0

 Elements 5.0 7.5 8.0
 Overall Quality 4.0 3.1 5.0
 Length 51.0 67.0 81.0
 Planning Time 0.0 23.8 21.0
 Writing Time 13.0 18.0 16.0
 Propositions 0.0 16.3 20.0

Writing Measures Baseline instruction Maintenance

 Elements 7.2 10.0 11.0
 Overall Quality 3.2 3.7 4.0
 Length 114.6 153.7 139.0
 Planning Time 0.0 19.3 15.0
 Writing Time 8.4 19.0 13.0
 Propositions 0.0 14.3 7.0

 Elements 7.0 10.3 8.0
 Overall Quality 4.3 4.7 4.0
 Length 63.0 75.0 58.0
 Planning Time 0.0 6.3 75.0
 Writing Time 5.3 7.7 8.0
 Propositions 0.0 15.0 15.5

Writing Measures Baseline instruction Maintenance

 Elements 8.3 11.3 8.0
 Overall Quality 4.4 4.7 6.0
 Length 116.1 171.0 119.0
 Planning Time 0.0 21.7 15.0
 Writing Time 15.6 17.0 10.0
 Propositions 0.0 26.2 23.0

 Elements 9.0 14.5 14.0
 Overall Quality 4.6 4.5 6.0
 Length 97.6 165.0 136.0
 Planning Time 0.0 97.6 165.0
 Writing Time 12.8 13.5 11.0
 Propositions 0.0 33.5 20.0


During baseline, students spent no time planning their stories or essays in advance of writing (see Table 2). After selecting a prompt, they immediately began writing. There was no overt evidence that they used any of the strategies taught in the current study as they wrote. There was, however, some variation in how they wrote. Luke frequently paused for prolonged periods while writing each baseline composition. He occasionally reread portions of text, although he never revised or edited his work. In contrast, Ben wrote each of his papers rapidly. When writing two baseline stories, he reread the texts and edited mechanical errors; otherwise, he did not revise or edit his papers at all. Leia often edited her papers and made minor revisions in word choice as she wrote. She wrote fluently but deliberately, focusing attention on her spelling and handwriting.

There was also variation between students in what they wrote during baseline. The stories produced by Ben and Leia were almost twice as long as those produced by Luke, and received higher quality ratings and scores on the story grammar scale (see Table 2). Nevertheless, Ben and Leia's stories were not equivalent, as Leia's stories received higher quality ratings and story grammar scores. With the exception of Leia's papers, the overall quality of baseline stories was generally poor.

A somewhat similar pattern was obtained for the generalization essays written during baseline. Leia wrote the longest essays with the most functional elements, followed by Ben and then Luke (see Table 2). However, there was little difference in the overall quality of their essays. They typically established a premise, but failed to present a clear line of argument to support it.

Even though instruction on story parts was provided before baseline and there was a reminder to use these parts during each story probe, one or more parts were typically not included in students' papers. None of the stories Luke or Ben created adequately established the problem the main character was trying to resolve (i.e., both the initiating event and an associated goal were specified), and Leia only did this 29% of the time. An adequate setting (i.e., both locale and time were included) was created in only about 25% of baseline stories. In contrast, all essays written during baseline included the most basic parts of an essay: a premise, reasons to support the premise, and a conclusion.

Following Instruction

Strategy Use, Planning, and Writing Behavior. There was a dramatic change in students' planning behavior following strategy instruction, as all three students consistently used the three writing strategies to plan postinstruction and maintenance stories as well as generalization essays. Ben, who did not overtly use the strategies when writing his first essay following the completion of instruction, was the only exception. After finishing the essay, however, he spontaneously declared that he could have planned beforehand, and he did so for every subsequent writing probe.

Students generally devoted as much or slightly more time to planning than they did to actually writing following instruction (see Table 2). This was true for postinstruction, maintenance, and generalization probes. Although students spent more time planning stories and essays written immediately after instruction than they did at maintenance, maintenance planning time was well above the baseline level of no planning time. Furthermore, the written plans developed by students in the present study generally contained more ideas than plans developed in previous strategy instructional studies (cf. De La Paz & Graham, 1997a, 1997b). Plans for stories averaged 18 ideas or propositions across students for postinstruction and maintenance probes, whereas essays averaged 21. Leia's plans included the most ideas or propositions, followed by Luke and then Ben (see Table 2).

Interestingly, Luke's planning behavior on postinstruction, maintenance, and generalization probes mirrored one aspect of his writing during baseline: He frequently paused for an extended period of time (up to 3 min) after listing an idea on his written plan. In addition, Luke often edited or revised his plans as he developed them and, on one occasion, continued to revise his plans after starting to write. While writing several stories, he "mindfully" modified the approach to planning he learned during instruction by labeling his ideas using the SPACE acronym rather than simply numbering ideas. He also made a similar modification using DARE for one of his essays. Although Luke continued to pause while writing, he did so less frequently than during baseline. Finally, he made revisions while writing in 29% of the compositions he produced after instruction, compared with 0% of his baseline papers.

Ben's planning was punctuated by brief pauses, and he occasionally revised his plans while developing them by changing particular words or adding additional ideas. In contrast to baseline when he wrote papers rapidly, he paused briefly when writing papers on postinstruction, maintenance, and generalization probes. He also made revisions in 67% of these papers, compared to 25% in baseline.

Like Luke, Leia frequently revised her plans by adding and deleting ideas and, on one occasion, continued to revise her plans after starting to write. She also "mindfully" modified her approach to planning on one occasion by using the DARE acronym to order ideas. As during baseline, she continued to revise most of her compositions as she wrote or after she reviewed her finished paper.

Stories. Following instruction, the schematic structure of stories improved considerably (see Figure 1 and Table 2) and each student's scores on postinstruction stories were higher than his or her highest baseline score. Students' average gain of 3.1 on the story grammar scale from baseline to postinstruction was similar to gains reported in earlier studies where students with LD were taught a planning strategy specifically for writing stories (Graham & Harris, 1989; Sawyer et al., 1992).

Similarly, the average length of students' stories increased following instruction (see Table 2) and students were more likely to include all of the basic parts of a story in their postinstruction papers. All stories included a setting, action, and consequence. The problem that the main character was trying to resolve was clearly established in 58% of the papers (up from 13% in baseline). Furthermore, the number of stories containing multiple episodes increased to 78%, up from 33% in baseline. Changes in overall story quality were quite small, however, averaging a one-half point improvement for Ben and a one-third point improvement for Leia. There was no improvement in the quality of stories written by Luke.

For the most part, students maintained the gains in story writing they made immediately following instruction (see Table 2). Although Luke and Ben wrote shorter stories at maintenance, their story grammar scores virtually remained at postinstructional levels and their quality scores slightly improved. In contrast, Leia's maintenance story was similar to her baseline stories in terms of length and story grammar structure, but of higher quality than either her baseline or postinstruction stories.

Generalization Essays. Instructional effects generalized to persuasive essay writing, a genre not addressed during instruction. In comparison to baseline scores, the average number of functional essay elements in all three students' postinstructional essays increased. (see Figure 2 and Table 2). There was, however, some overlap between baseline and postinstruction scores. The first postinstruction essay written by Ben and Leia included the same number of functional elements as the first essay they wrote during baseline. For Ben, this may have occurred because he did not plan in advance when writing his first postinstruction essay.

Even though students were not specifically taught how to use the planning strategies to write essays in the current study, their average gain of 3.8 functional elements per postinstruction essay approximated the average gains (3.9 to 4.9) reported in earlier studies where students with LD were specifically taught an essay planning strategy (De La Paz & Graham, 1997a, 1997b; Graham & Harris, 1989; Graham, MacArthur, Schwartz, & Page, 1992; Sexton, Harris, & Graham, 1998). As during baseline, all postinstruction essays included the basic parts of an essay.

It was necessary to provide a short booster session for Luke following the second postinstruction essay. Although he was using the three planning strategies to write his essays, he had stopped addressing counterarguments and including supporting details. During the booster

session, the parts of a persuasive essay were reviewed using the DARE chart and the student and instructor collaboratively practiced writing an essay that included all of the components. The planning strategy was not used during this session to avoid prompting subsequent strategy use.

The length of students' essays also increased immediately following instruction (see Table 2). Despite increases in the length and number of functional elements, however, the overall quality of students' postinstruction essays remained low (see Table 2), indicating that the students failed to present a clear line of argument to support their premise. One student, Ben, evidenced a small improvement in essay quality immediately following instruction. There was no change in the quality of Leia's essays, however, and Luke's average quality score dropped by approximately a full point.

Luke and Leia sustained the generalization gains they made immediately following instruction on the maintenance essay (see Table 2). On all three product measures (essay elements, length, and quality), Luke had higher scores than he did on his typical baseline or postinstruction essay. This was also the case for Leia, except that the essay written at maintenance was shorter than her average postinstruction essay. In contrast, Ben's performance on this probe returned to baseline levels.

Social Validation

At the end of the study, the students were interviewed to gather information about the efficacy of the intervention. Each student reported that the strategies were beneficial and that they intended to use them in the future. Ben, in fact, suggested specific tasks for which he could employ the strategies, such as cleaning and organizing his room. Leia indicated that she had used the strategies in her English class to revise a story. She stated that she listed ideas contained in the first draft of her story, brainstormed additional ideas to use, and sequenced them before writing the second draft. All of the students reported that thinking of novel tasks to which to apply the strategy was challenging.


Students with LD often employ an approach to writing that minimizes the role of reflection and planning (Graham & Harris, 1997). Before strategy instruction, students in the present study demonstrated a similar approach to composing. As soon as they had selected a topic to write about, each student immediately began to write without taking time to think about what they wanted to do or say. Although we did not collect a formal measure of planning during writing, the instructor kept a written log of what students did as they wrote. This record also provided little evidence of planning, beyond what to say in the next sentence, as students created no written notes or plans while writing and made no planning comments that pertained to material beyond the upcoming sentence. For the most part, students did not overtly take much opportunity to reflect and plan while composing, as only one of the students (Luke) paused for any appreciable time while writing.

To help these children become more planful writers, we taught them to plan ahead using the same types of strategies employed by more skillful writers. They learned to set goals as well as brainstorm and sequence their ideas while writing stories. Furthermore, as students initially learned to apply the strategies to story writing and more broadly on self-selected homework assignments, they were provided ample opportunities to reflect on the principles underlying the strategies, the connections between use of the strategies and performance, and how the strategies need to be applied and modified for current and future tasks. As Wong (1994) noted, inducing such mindfulness during strategy instruction should facilitate maintenance and transfer.

Learning how to use the planning strategies had a positive effect on students' writing. The schematic structure of students' stories improved and papers became longer immediately following instruction. These effects transferred to a second, uninstructed genre, persuasive essay writing, as postinstruction essays were longer and included more functional elements than those written during baseline. In addition, improvements in story and essay writing were generally maintained on probes administered 3 weeks later. The key exceptions involved Leia's story and Ben's essay at maintenance. For each of these papers, scores for elements and length returned to baseline levels. Even so, Leia wrote her best story at maintenance, as it received a higher quality rating than any of her previous stories. It should also be noted that papers written at maintenance tended to be shorter than papers written immediately following instruction. They were typically, however, still longer than those written during baseline.

Strategy instruction also changed how students wrote, as planning became a prominent part of the writing process. Students set goals, brainstormed ideas, and sequenced all stories written after instruction (both postinstruction and maintenance). They never spent less than 12 min planning stories in advance and often spent 20 min or more, generating an average of 18 ideas or propositions in their writing plans. Changes in how students wrote also transferred to the untrained genre, persuasive essays. In all but one instance, students used the strategies to plan essays written after instruction ended. In the one instance in which the strategies were not applied, the student made an unsolicited announcement that he could have used the strategies, and did so on all subsequent essays. Students typically spent 17 rain planning their essays, generating 21 ideas or propositions for their writing plans. Similar to skilled writers (Gould, 1980), students spent as much time planning their stories and essays as they did writing them.


The findings from this study provide several important implications for practice. One, writing programs for students with LD must include instructional activities designed to help them incorporate additional self-regulatory procedures into their writing so that they become more resourceful, reflective, and goal-oriented. The current study highlights one important tool for accomplishing this objective--explicitly teaching students to use the same types of planning processes employed by more skillful writers. Even though the recommendation to explicitly teach writing strategies to students with LD is supported by a substantial body of literature (see Graham & Harris, 1996, 1997; Harris & Graham, 1996; Wong, 1997), it must be realized that such instruction needs to occur in an environment in which children's skills in self-regulation can prosper and grow. For example, students are less likely to use the writing strategies they are explicitly taught if they do not value writing or what they write (Graham & Harris, 1996). Such apathy can be countered by allowing students to choose their own writing topics, assigning topics that are designed to serve a real purpose, encouraging students to share their work with others, and creating a classroom environment that is supportive, pleasant, and nonthreatening. The development of self-regulation in writing is also likely to be inhibited if students are provided few opportunities to manage their own behaviors or to apply the strategies they are explicitly taught (Graham & Harris, 1997). Opportunities to self-regulate can be increased by encouraging students to construct a personal plan for accomplishing the writing task, work at their own pace, and arrange a suitable writing environment. Opportunities to apply inculcated strategies can be increased by directly reminding students to use these strategies and establishing predictable classroom routines in which their use is expected and reinforced.

Two, when writing strategies are explicitly taught to students with LD, procedures designed to induce mindfulness must be included as part of the instructional milieu to further increase the likelihood of maintenance and generalization. As other researchers have noted (e.g., Ellis, 1986; Wong, 1994), students with LD are less likely than their regularly-achieving peers to apply available strategies to new situations. In the present study, we obtained some evidence that students were able to apply what they had learned in a mindful manner. Without prompting, two of the students modified how they used the planning strategies by applying them in conjunction with a previously learned acronym. After brainstorming ideas for his stories, for example, Luke organized his ideas by labeling each with a letter from the SPACE acronym for story parts introduced during preinstruction. This provided him with an established structure for sequencing the ideas in his stories. Similarly, Leia used the previously learned DARE acronym for essay parts to organize one of the persuasive essay plans she developed. During the interview administered at the end of the study, Leia further indicated that she had used the planning strategies in her English class to help her revise a story. She listed the ideas contained in her first draft, brainstormed new ideas to include, and then sequenced them.

It should be noted that the experimental design used in the current study did not allow us to identify the specific instructional components responsible for the strong maintenance and transfer effects obtained for strategy use. Although the instructional regimen included a variety of procedures designed to induce the thoughtful or mindful application of the strategies as they were initially being learned and then applied more broadly, it also included other mechanisms for promoting maintenance and transfer. These included memorizing a reminder for using the strategies, practicing the strategies until they could be used correctly and independently, and applying the strategies to multiple tasks. Additional research is needed, therefore, to determine the relative contribution of each of these components to promoting strategy maintenance and transfer.

Three, we encourage teachers who chose to use the instructional procedures employed in the current study in their own classroom to make two modifications. First, even though students developed their plans in a flexible manner following strategy instruction, making revisions as they discovered and developed what they wanted to say prior to writing, they typically did not make additional written adjustments in their plans once they actually started writing their papers; this only occurred on two occasions. Moreover, an informal examination of students' written plans and corresponding papers revealed that students followed their plans closely while writing, developing papers that deviated little from their initial conceptualization. Fifth-grade students with LD, though, are capable of extending and modifying their written plans as they write. In a study by De La Paz and Graham (1997b), fifth-grade students with LD received instruction in using a writing strategy that included a prompt to continue the process of planning while writing (i.e., Write and Say More). Following instruction, students frequently made adjustments in their initial plans while writing by adding and deleting ideas as well as rearranging them. They made so many adjustments that approximately 60% of the content in their papers was not included in their initial outlines. In the current study, students were encouraged to modify their written plans while writing as they were learning the strategy. (This also was done in De La Paz & Graham, 1997b.) But a prompt to continue the process of planning while writing was not included as a more formal component in the STOP & LIST mnemonic. Thus, educators interested in teaching students to use this procedure for writing may want to add such a prompt to the strategy.

Teachers also may want to modify specific aspects of students' application of the strategies to increase the impact of instruction on the overall quality of writing. In the present study, application of the three planning strategies resulted in relatively modest changes in the overall quality of students' stories. Even though improvements in the schematic structure of stories in the current study was comparable to gains made by similar students taught a strategy specifically for story writing in past investigations (Graham ex: Harris, 1989; Sawyer et al., 1992), changes in overall quality were not as substantial. When all stories written after instruction (postinstruction and maintenance) were considered, two of the three students averaged about a one-half point improvement on an 8-point scale, whereas the other student (Luke) averaged a one-third point improvement. In previous investigations, students averaged almost a one-point improvement in overall writing quality following instruction. The students' performance on the generalization essay probes followed a somewhat similar pattern. Even though participants received no instruction in applying the target strategies to essay writing, they were as successful as similar students who had been taught a specific essay writing strategy in prior studies in terms of increasing the number of functional elements included in their essays (De La Paz & Graham, 1997a, 1997b; Graham et al., 1992; Sexton et al., 1998). In contrast to previous investigations, however, there was no improvement in overall quality of essays, when all papers written after instruction were averaged together.

It is possible that changes in overall quality were not commensurate with the improvements reported in earlier investigations because of differences in how ideas were generated in advance of writing. In previous studies with both stories (Graham & Harris, 1989; Sawyer et al., 1992) and essays (De La Paz & Graham, 1997a, 1997b; Graham et al., 1992; Sexton et al., 1998), students used a more structured format for generating writing content, brainstorming ideas for each element or part of the story or essay in advance. Brainstorming in the present study, in contrast, was more open-ended, as students simply generated a list of writing ideas. For students with LD, the structured approach may be more advantageous initially, as the process of generating possible content is more tightly focused and organized. When brainstorming is more open-ended, it may be particularly important to encourage students to evaluate the ideas they brainstorm, assessing how each adds or detracts from the overall quality of the story or essay. Ideas that make little or no contribution should be eliminated, underdeveloped ideas strengthened, and strong ideas retained. Although students in the present study did make judgments about the ideas they generated, as evidenced by the changes they made in their plans, teachers should increase the attention students devote to this process when applying these instructional procedures in their own classrooms.

Finally, the planning instruction implemented in this study was individualized, but it should be applicable (with some modifications) to resource or classroom settings. The SRSD model has been used to successfully teach both planning and revising strategies in resource, self-contained, and general education classrooms (see Harris & Graham, 1996). Furthermore, we would anticipate that these instructional procedures would be effective with other poor writers. Evidence in support of this supposition was provided in a recent study by De La Paz and Graham (1997b) in which planning instruction using SRSD was effective in improving the persuasive essay writing of poor writers with varying intellectual capabilities and learning difficulties.


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(*) To order books referenced in this journal please call 24 hrs/365 days: (800) BOOKS-NOW (266-5766) or (801) 261-1187, or visit them on the Web at Children.htm. Use Visa, M/C, or AMEX or send check or money order + $4.95 S&H ($2.50 each add'l item) to: BooksNow, 448 E. 6400 South, Suite 125, Salt Lake City, UT 84107.


GARY A. TROIA (MD Federation), Instructor, Special Education; STEVE GRAHAM (CEC # 263), Professor, Special Education; KAREN R. HARRIS (CEC # 263), Professor, Special Education, University of Maryland, College Park.

Correspondence should be addressed to Gary A. Troia, University of Maryland, Department of Special Education, College Park, MD 20742.

Manuscript received December 1997; revision accepted August 1998.
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